It was sometime in the 1970s that my mother Helen (Sebah) Thomason (my musical mentor) introduced me to Jean Luc Ponty, the French jazz/fusion violinist and composer. I remember standing in the living room of our house when she walked in with this album of a guy playing a violin on the cover (thats the picture of the album cover below). Now my “kiddie brain” is thinking, how can playing a violin be cool? And more important, can it sound cool?
My mother made it a habit of introducing me to various types of music. So this was no exception. I was used to it by now. She was a classical/jazz pianist and she always wanted me to be “well rounded” musically as was she. She had me sitting at the piano around age 4 and got me an acoustic guitar when I was around 8 years old.
My past met my present on August 15th, 2018 at 730pm on a beautiful warm summer night at Chene Park in Detroit, Michigan. Chene Park has since been renamed Aretha Louise Franklin Amphitheater to honor her contributions to Detroit, the world and music. She would pass away the next day on August 16th.
Chene Park is a beautiful venue on the riverfront of Detroit, with the city of Windsor, Canada in the backdrop and on a warm summer night a great place to hear live music.
The clip I’ve attached is the slow version of my favorite song of his “New Country”.
My mother played the “faster” version in our living room that day. It has a “country/ square dance” vibe to it, but you can’t help but want to clap your hands and stomp your feet to the “fast” version of this song. But I love the slower version too. Its so soothing and hypnotic. You can’t help but be drawn into it. And I especially love the acoustic guitar being played that night. Just beautiful.
As a child I had never heard a violin played like this and with such energy and passion. I had only heard the violin played in a classical music setting, like at the symphony. He brought an energy and sound I’ve never heard before from the instrument.
Thank you Jean Luc for a night of great music and even better memories of my mother and my childhood.